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Today at No. 6: Stanford Cardinal Coach: David Shaw (34-6, entering fourth season; 34-6 overall) 2013 record: 11-3 (7-2 in Pac-12 Conference, tied for...

vrs125an (1)125XBANNER#1Today at No. 6: Stanford Cardinal

Coach: David Shaw (34-6, entering fourth season; 34-6 overall)

2013 record: 11-3 (7-2 in Pac-12 Conference, tied for first in North Division)

Pictures: Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders 2015 Swimsuit Calendar

Look back: Stanford experienced a certain level of success unheard of from this program in quite some time. Since 2010, the Cardinal have won at least 11 games a season, including back-to-back Pac-12 titles in 2012 and 2013. During that same stretch, Stanford’s played in four consecutive BCS bowl games, including last season’s Rose Bowl. And the success doesn’t stop at the collegiate level, with 20 former Stanford players drafted into the NFL during the past five seasons.

Offensive starters returning: 5

Offensive starters lost: 6

Defensive starters returning: 7

Defensive starters lost: 4

Key losses: RB Tyler Gaffney, FB Ryan Hewitt, RT Cameron Fleming, LG David Yankey, DE Josh Mauro, LB Trent Murphy, LB Shayne Skov, FS Ed Reynolds

Top returnees: QB Kevin Hogan, WR Ty Montgomery, TE Charlie Hopkins, WR Devon Cajuste, DT David Parry, DE Henry Anderson, LB A.J. Tarpley, CB Wayne Lyons

Strengths: Defense still wins championships. Three of the past four seasons, Stanford’s finished with one of the best scoring defenses in the Pac-12. Last season, the Cardinal allowed a paltry 19 points and 343 yards per game. The true testament was the 19.5 points per game it allowed against teams ranked in the top 25. The Cardinal’s defense returns seven starters, including linebackers A.J. Tarpley (93 total tackles) and James Vaughters (36 TT). Safety Jordan Richards (69 TT, 3 INTs) anchors a secondary that features three of four starters from last season.

Weaknesses: David Shaw’s expertise is offense ? he was the Cardinal’s offensive coordinator from 2007-2010 ? but surprisingly, Stanford finished near the bottom of the Pac-12 in passing offense last season. Quarterback Kevin Hogan passed for 2,630 yards and 20 touchdowns in his first full season as the starter.

The program’s had a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the past six seasons, with Tyler Gaffney (1,709 yards, 21 TDs) being the latest to accomplish the feat. Gaffney’s departure means Shaw and his staff must find a suitable replacement in the backfield. Junior Barry Sanders Jr. (42 yards) and senior Kelsey Young (110 yards, TD) appear to be the best options heading into 2014.

The offensive line allowed a league-low 16 sacks in 2013, but the group took a major hit in the offseason, losing four starters including All-American left guard David Yankey. Left tackle Andrus Peat is the only returning starter and anchors a group that features two underclassmen in center Graham Shuler and right guard Johnny Caspers.

Outlook: It’s clear Shaw is one of the up-and-coming college football coaches based on the growing interest from NFL franchises in him during the offseason. He’s helped continue the level of excellence started by Jim Harbaugh in 2007. However, this season could be his biggest test yet. Attrition hit the program hard in the offseason, including losing defensive coordinator Derek Mason to the Vanderbilt head coaching job. The schedule is one of the toughest in college football, with six games against teams ranked in the preseason AP top 25 poll. Five of those games will be played on the road.

2014 Schedule

Aug. 30 UC Davis

Sept. 6 USC

Sept. 13 Army

Sept. 27 at Washington

Oct. 4 at Notre Dame

Oct. 10 Washington State

Oct. 18 at Arizona State

Oct. 25 Oregon State

Nov. 1 at Oregon

Nov. 15 Utah

Nov. 22 at California

Nov. 28 at UCLA

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Vincent Rizzo

College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,V@VincentRizzoSports.com

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